Is Jake Locker Truly the Future at QB for the Tennessee Titans?

Quinn Cretton@@QuinnCrettonCorrespondent IJanuary 11, 2013

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 17:  Quarterback Jake Locker #10 of the Tennessee Titans throws a pass against the New York Jets at LP Field on December 17, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

When the Tennessee Titans selected Jake Locker with the eighth pick in the 2011 NFL draft, many assumed that they had found their first true quarterback of the future since Steve McNair's departure in 2006.

However, following a disappointing and injury-riddled 2012 campaign, serious questions have arisen over Locker's future with the franchise.

The Washington product started his pro career on the bench, filling in for starter Matt Hasselbeck on a few occasions. The idea was to give him an opportunity to sit back and learn the fundamentals of the position from the veteran signal-caller.

When he was able to see the field, Locker flashed plenty of potential. He extended plays with his legs and led a number of touchdown drives. He also avoided some of the turnovers that were a big concern when he was coming out of college.

In the three games in which he saw significant playing time, Locker managed to average over eight yards per pass attempt. He tossed four touchdowns and rushed for another, and the Titans offense seemed to thrive when he was commanding the huddle.

Entering his second season, many Titans fans were clamoring for Locker to surpass Hasselbeck on the depth chart moving forward.

Following a brief quarterback competition, Titans head coach Mike Munchak handed over the reins of the offense to Locker.

Expectations for the offense were higher than they had been in many years.

When Locker took the field for his first career start, a 34-13 loss to the New England Patriots, he once again made a number of throws that showcased his immense talent. But he also displayed the shoddy accuracy that would haunt him throughout the latter portion of the season.

Over the course of the season, Locker suffered an injury to his non-throwing shoulder, forcing him to miss a month and a half. That put an end to any momentum he hoped to develop in his first year as a starter.

When Locker returned from injury, his entire game seemed to take a step backward. The weapons around him also began to struggle.

In his final six starts of the year, Locker tossed just four touchdowns while throwing nine interceptions. His quarterback rating plummeted, and the offensive line in front of him fell apart.

Heading into an offseason in which Mike Munchak is feeling the pressure of putting together a winning team immediately, Locker's future with the organization is almost certainly tied to Munchak sticking around beyond 2013.

Though he has started just 11 games to this point in his career, Locker has not shown the improvement one would hope to see from a second-year passer. Entering his first offseason as the unquestioned starter, he will be under immense pressure to take the next step.

Locker's athletic ability has never been questioned; he has the mobility and arm strength to make every play one could ask of a quarterback. But he has failed to demonstrate consistent, fundamental improvement since his time in Washington.

Locker likely has an offseason and 16 games to prove he can be a franchise quarterback. If not, the Titans will be forced to evaluate the position and possibly make a move for another option via free agency or the draft.

If that's the case, Tennessee will almost certainly be under a new head-coaching regime.